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Tarrant's biggest arts festivals sharing the weekend

04/13/2011 11:18 PM

04/14/2011 9:13 PM

Tarrant County's two most popular art festivals are going head to head this weekend.

Blame Easter for pitting the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival against Southlake's Art in the Square.

"We like to set for the third week in April," said Jay Downey, events director for Downtown Fort Worth Inc., which puts on the Fort Worth festival. "Occasionally, we have to move based on Easter or the Texas Motor Speedway. We made a pledge to the city that having two large events on the same weekend is not what Fort Worth is about."

Because the NASCAR races were last weekend and Easter is April 24, Fort Worth could secure the weekend it wanted this year. Southlake usually has its show the week after Fort Worth, but Easter forced it to be pushed back a week. In 2006, Easter forced Fort Worth to change its date to the same weekend as Southlake's.

Officials of both festivals say their crowds are unique and they don't expect to see a drop in attendance.

"The biggest factor for any outdoor event is the weather," said Art in the Square spokeswoman Sherri Whitt. "We didn't notice any difference in the attendance, number of artists or the amount of money we made" in 2006.

Downey suggested that the festivals appeal to different people, or to the same people for different reasons. At Main St., for instance, music is more prominent. "People love the music as much as the art," he said.

And festivalgoers describe Main St. Fort Worth as a little more raucous, while Southlake seems more family-oriented and intimate.

Vendors along Main Street and flanking the big stage in front of the Fort Worth Convention Center include a number of alcohol purveyors. But partiers also tend to drift to and from such convenient watering holes as 8.0 Restaurant and Bar, Bar 9, the Flying Saucer and Paddy Reds Irish Pub.

In contrast, Southlake's Town Square has a more inviting mix of upscale shopping and casual dining such as Brio Tuscan Grille and Thai Chili. Alcoholic beverages at the festival are served in atmospheres such as Le Bistro, with its international cuisine; Art Off the Vine, with its wine tastings; and the latest addition, King and Queen Pub, which fills a tent with an Old World environment and sells domestic and imported beers.

Kids can enjoy either festival. The north end of Main Street -- near the courthouse -- has a solid block dedicated to kid-oriented crafts and activities. But Southlake does a little more this year. Art in the Square added the Fun Zone, almost 200,000 square feet devoted to children.

In addition, Town Square's gazebo stage hosts entertainment geared to younger minds.

Regardless of the festivals' other offerings, it's the artists who are on center stage.

A ceramic artist from Edom, 115 miles east of Fort Worth, appreciates Southlake's festival for seeming more like an art gallery than a block party.

"Late at night, you're not going to sell a pot" at Main St. Fort Worth, artist Doug Brown said. "It's a wonderful show if you sell things that people can carry around in their pockets."

Local ceramic artist Gregory Story has also been in both shows but prefers Main St.

"I consider Main St. my hometown show," he said. "It's also one of the finest art festivals in the country. There's a reason why 2,000 artists compete to get into" the festival.

Actually, Main Street received a little more than 1,500 applications this year, Downey said. From those, a panel of jurors picked 223 artists in 15 categories.

Southlake Women's Club uses a committee to pick artists, Whitt said. More than 700 -- the most ever -- applied this year. There was room for 150.

Downey said the Metroplex is lucky to have two highly prized art festivals to choose from.

"We like Southlake," he said. "They're great folks and do a wonderful job. People who like art will visit both places."

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

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